Students tackle issue of vaping on school grounds

MANHASSET, NY – Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Center for Workforce Readiness has named Hicksville High School in Nassau County as the winner of its seventh annual Medical Marvels competition. The Medical Marvels program encourages Long Island high school students in 9th and 10th grades to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This year’s competition asked participants from 38 schools from four counties to develop a solution to curtail the prevalence of vaping on their respective school grounds.

A panel of scientists, clinicians and health care administrators evaluated each proposal using the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant scoring criteria. The team with the lowest score was named the winner.

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The aerosol consists of fine particles that are not harmless and can contain potentially detrimental substances including nicotine, which can lead to addiction and harm brain development.

“Each year, we are thrilled to see the vast array of novel ideas that students come up with that seek to improve lives by confronting important health issues,” said Cheryl Davidson, senior director of Northwell Health’s Center for Workforce Readiness. “The competition is unique as renowned researchers at the Feinstein Institute are able to have dialogue with the students which serves as an inspiring day for them.”

Competitors were asked to put themselves in the shoes of a high school principal in New York State tasked by the district’s superintendent to devise a plan to curtail  students from vaping on campus. They analyzed the risks and concerns of exposure, research opportunities to understand the cause, and ultimately bring awareness to their peers and community at large of vaping’s danger. In addition, the parameters included encouraging students to come up with a mechanism for measuring their ideas.

Students from Hicksville High School focused on technology and engineering for their solution. The Hicksville students argued that long-term solutions should focus on adjusting the way in which vape pens are made through public policy. For example, to add access codes which only school staff can unlock, and establish a geofence around school campuses that would have the capability of shutting off all pens in a specific geographic area. The students also emphasized public policy as a mechanism for creating laws and promoting greater awareness with the ultimate goal of prevention.

“Hosting the Medical Marvels showcases a national reality that there has never been a more important time to encourage young people to pursue career paths in the sciences,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president & CEO of the Feinstein Institute.

Garden City High School students placed second while Port Washington’s Paul D. Schreiber High School finished third.

In 2018, the competition asked participants to hypothesize approaches to end the opioid crisis on Long Island and across the United States.

The Medical Marvels program believes in the academic promise of all students, and that by investing in their ideas, the future health and well-being of our community will be served. They also believe that by investing in youth and giving them a sense of place and responsibility for problem solving in the community, a community ensures that it will have bright and capable future leaders for STEM careers. Medical Marvels is an annual program. Any New York State-accredited educational institution in Nassau, Suffolk, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, or Westchester is eligible to participate.

About the Feinstein Institute

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York. Home to 50 research laboratories and to clinical research throughout dozens of hospitals and outpatient facilities, the Feinstein Institute includes 4,000 researchers and staff who are making breakthroughs in molecular medicine, genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we empower imagination and pioneer discovery, visit

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